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Fig Caprif ication 

The Setting of the Fruit 



SB 71 

'/SJ/H/E/& .- 




The Setting of the Fruit 



Secretary of the State Board of Horticulture, and ex-officio Chief 
Horticultural Officer. 

(1) One of the fruits of the fig. 

(2) One of the pistillate flowers. 

(3) One of the staminate flowers. 

(4) Seed with embryo ; all enlarged. 

A paper read before the Fifteenth State Fruit Growers 
dm vent ion, convened at Marysville, Cal., 
\ #< <ember ijth to 2oth, 
1891. , 



11 Thus we see that the flowers, which we vainly tbiiik are " ; V; ; 

' born to blush unseen, 
And waste tbeir fragrance on the desert air,' 

though unvisited by the lord of creation, who boasts that they were 
made for him, have nevertheless myriads of insect visitants and 
admirers, which, though they pilfer their sweets, contribute to their 

The question of fig caprification has been the all-absorbing 
topic of the day among the fig-growers in this State, and especi- 
ally since the introduction of the fig wasp, Blastophaga psenes 
from Asia Minor, by means of which insect it was hoped that 
the fertilization of the Smyrna fig could be successfully accom- 

I listened with much interest to the lecture on the Blastopbaga 
by Gustav Eisen, before the Academy of Sciences, at San Fran- 
cisco, August 3, 1-891, and expressed the fondest hopes of it 
demonstrating that caprification is an absolute necessity. I 
procured various specimens of Smyrna figs from early spring to 
late fall, and carefully examined the eye or blossom end and 
could find no opening, nor even a possibility for any insect to 
enter the fig. I so reported what my conclusions were at that 
time, and further stated that while these investigations were 
still in progress I did not wish to speak dogmatically; but I had 
so far found what seemed to me evidence that in some cases, at 
least of the Smyrna fig, the fruit was found to have gone beyond 
the point of fertilization of the interior inflorescence before 
there was any opening whatever in the eye or blossom end of 
the fig. Even in figs quite small 1 found the seed formation so 
far progressed that the seed had a well-defined shell, and at that 
time I believe the time for fertilization had passed. Mr. Shihn 
disputed some specimens I exhibited as not being the Smyrna, 
and brought me several of his Smyrna or so-called Bulletin figs. 
I carefully examined them and also compared them with the 

specimens I had procured from different places, and called Mr. 
Shinn's attention to the fact of their being much closer or 
tighter at the blossom end than mine. Mr. Shinn could not 
account for this and said in reply, jokingly, " the insect will get 
in ; they know their business." 

The following I quote from my own report of the year 1889? 
'** {j& a 8 e , 'k3f>:fa>"l*ow the stand I have taken on the question ; and 
jr^y con elusions *aie not theories, but are based upon the reports 
'/-.* 'Suffd'invfefitigatte'n's of modern scientific writers, viz.: 

" In the fig the organs of fructification are hidden from view: 
therefore we cannot tell exactly when fertilization is effected ; 
but it is supposed that it takes place when the eye assumes a 
pinkish hue and expands and admits a little air into the interior, 
where the flowers are. 

" In many parts of Italy and the south of Europe, in olden 
times, cultivators paid much attention to setting the figs by the 
method of caprification. This practice was much believed in, 
but is condemned by most modern scientific writers as absurd. 

"Caprification, according to the experience of practical 
growers, is altogether a delusion; and many of the largest planta- 
tions of the old world have continued to bear fruit without the 
aid of the Capri fig. 

" Professor Gasparinrii, a learned botanist, carried on very 
extended experiments, covering a period of six years, and in an 
essay written for the Royal Academy of Sciences of Naples 
detailed the number of experiments which he had made and 
repeated in different years. Their results lead to the conclusion 
that caprification is useless for the setting and ripening of the 
fruit, and that instead of making the figs remain on the tree it 
either causes or facilitates their fall, especially when the insect 
had penetrated into the inside and produced decay by its own 
death. When the insect ever entered a fig, the maturity of it 
was hastened as apples and pears are when attacked by a grub. 
Professor Gasparinni recommended the abolishment of the prac- 
tice, as it only entails expense and deteriorates the flavor of the 

" In the islands of the Archipelago the practice has been 
abandoned, according to the French naturalist Oliver, but in 
which islands excellent figs are produced. 

" The process, stripped of all its mystification, is a simple one, 

which, as stated before, has proved a delusion, and is only 
alluded to here as such. In the first place, there is a wild spe- 
cies of fig, called Capri fig, on which it is said a certain insect 
exists, which enters the fruit when in a youg state, at the eye, 
thereby facilitating the entrance of light and air, or some fer- 
tilizing vapor whereby the flowers are enabled to set and ripen. 
In fig plantations numbers of this wild species are planted for 
the sole purpose of bearing these insects ; and at the proper sea- 
son the fruits with the insects are carried and deposited on the 
fruit or shoots of the domestic species. 

" Without all this maneuvering it is faithfully believed that 
very scanty crops of figs would be secured; but, according to the 
investigations of modern science, it is proved to be not only 
unnecessary but positively injurious." 

I am by no means a disbeliever of the process ; but for the 
time being, and until the merits of the Blastophaga are proven 
beyond a doubt, I shall weigh with much consideration the con- 
clusions of the authorities I have quoted, and further, because 
I have but recently made a very important discovery which gives 
me new grounds for such a belief, which I will explain further, 


(Cynips psenes, Linn.) 

Male Magnified. 


Female. Average length .08 of an inch. Wing expanse about 
.11 of an inch. Color light brown. Antennae clavate, ten- 
jointed, covered with fine hairs. Head sub-globose. Eyes very 

large and prominent, of a dark color. Thorax long. Abdomen 
elongate acute, terminating in a long, .hairy ovipositor, three 
times the length of the body, two-thirds of the terminal por- 
tion of which is divided into three parts. On the under side 
of the abdomen is a process. Wings transparent, pubescent, 
with long marginal hairs. The stigma of the anterior wing at 
right angle from marginal costa. The legs are of the same color 
as body and covered with stout hairs. The tibia of the front 
legs is stouter than that of the second pair. The posterior legs 
are much stouter and longer than the others. 

Male. Length about .07 of an inch. Wing expanse about 
.11 of an inch. Color black. Antenna? clavate, eleven-jointed, 
hairy. The scape is much larger than that of the female. Head 
same as female. Eyes dark and prominent. Thorax about as 
long as abdomen. Abdomen obtuse with a short curved stylus. 
Wings and legs same as those of female. 


The credit of the introduction of this insect into the State 
belongs solely -to Mr. James Shinn, of Niles. The fig-growers 
of this State were and had been anxious to have the insect intro- 
duced so that its merits pro and con might be established. To 
this end the entomologist of the Deparment of Agriculture was 
asked to procure the insect from Smyrna, as the facilities of 
Government officials in such matters are well known. In the 
June number of Insect Life he says that efforts would be made 
to introduce the insect into our State ; but as to what efforts 
were made nothing has been heard. I should not be surprised 
in the least if in a coming number of some publication he 
broaches the claim that the credit of introduction belongs 
to him, as scarcely a bug has been introduced or discovered to 
which he has not claimed first credit ; and, as one of our Con- 
gressmen expressed it to the members of our Board, "He not 
only wanted to make me believe that he discovered the bug, but 
had also produced it." " What egotism ! how selfish, oh man!" 

As to the history of the introduction of the Blastophaga and 
how it came about, I cannot do better than give Mr. Shinn's 
own statement, viz. : 

Mr. Shinn: "We wrote to some friends that were known to us 
in Smyrna ; or rather some missionaries were stopping at my 

house, and seeing that my figs did not bear and that I was get- 
ting uneasy about it, one of the ladies, my wife's sister, said she 
knew a lady from Syracuse, N. Y., who was then in Smyrna, 
and if she would write to her she would fix up a few of the fig 
cuttings and send them. The lady sent for them, and instead of 
sending a half dozen cuttings sent a whole box of cuttings, on 
which I paid about $100. After I received this box here comes 
another little box and a letter saying, ' The figs must be capri- 
fied, if not you will get no figs. I sent you a little box of figs 
that are full of the Blastophaga, and hope you can do well with 
them.' The moment we got them my son went out to the Capri 
fig tree, opened the box and set it out there. Some of the in- 
sects were dead and some were alive. I saw Mr. Eisen the next 
day and told him about the Blastophaga and the figs. He and 
Mr. Masliii came to my place the Sunday following, July 26th. 
We examined and found some live insects, but most of them 
were dead. The Smyrna figs that were caprified, that is, that 
had the pollen put in artificially, came to perfection, but no 
others did. Two crops have all gone to the ground and are now 
on the ground, except about ten figs. The pollen that was in- 
jected into the figs was from the Capri figs grown on my place 
at Niles. There are two varieties of the Smyrna fig. One has 
a three-lobed leaf, and the figs small and elongated. The other 
is a five-lobed leaf, and the figs are flat and roundish." 


Mr. Shinn then exhibited three figs which were caprified by 
means of a quill toothpick,* two roundish and one elongated. 
In answer to a question as to the opening of the figs at the time 
they were fertilized, Mr. Shinn could not remember, but said : 
li The insect knows how to get in if it must ; that is a provision 
of nature. Only the figs that were caprified have come to per- 
fection : the others all dropped off." 

Question : Were those figs caprified by the insect or arti- 
ficially ? 

Mr. Shinn: Artificially. 

Question : Then there is 110 fig that has come to maturity 
known to have been caprified by the insect ? 

Mr. Shinn : None at all. 

* This operation was first conceived of by Geo. C. Roeding, of Fresno, and tlm* matured Smyrna 
figs in 1890, and also in 1891. 

Mr. Maslin, who was present, was requested to state his views 
and observations, which he did as follows : 

Mr. Maslin : On the 26th of July I went over with Mr. 
Eisen, at his invitation, to examine the Blastophaga. We met 
Mr. Shinn's son, who pointed out to us a fig tree which he said 
was a Capri fig, and one of the importation made by the 
S. F. Bulletin Company. The others in the rows belonged to 
the edible fig. We found in the boughs of that Capri fig tree 
the box containing the Capri figs imported by Mr. Shinn, with 
quite a large number of dead Blastophaga. Mr. Eisen cut open the 

Figs grown and exhibited by Mr. Shinn. 
(1) The large Smyrna, flesh amber color. ('2) The small Smyrna, flesh dark red. 

dried Capri figs and found them literally black with the insects, 
which began to move, but very sluggishly. The size of the in- 
sect is about one line, one-twelfth of an inch. We then took 
some of those insects and scattered them at the so-called blos- 
som end of some of the Capri figs and some of the figs known as 
the Bulletin's importation. Mr. Eisen then proceeded to fertil- 
ize some of the figs. We found that the fallen Capri figs from 
the growing tree on the ground were full of pollen ; cutting 
them open Mr. Eisen dusted the pollen about the open end of 

various figs. I suggested to him that we should insert the pollen 
by means of a toothpick. I picked up a .fig and dusted the 

a .a 

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a s 



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5 or 



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pollen into my hand, filling the toothpick with the pollen; and 
he inserted the toothpick into several figs. We pollenated sev- 

eral figs with the pollen of the Capri fig, then went round at the 
end of the row and proceeded down toward the south and pollen- 
ated probably twenty figs in several places, selecting such figs as 
showed growth. We then tied a string at each place below the 
fig that was pollenated, so as to find them afterward. 

Question : Mr. Eisen claims to have inserted a quill into an 
edible fig, and when he withdrew it that there were Blastophaga 
at the end of the quill. He so stated in his lecture on the Blas- 

Mr. Maslin I recollect that on a tree next to the Capri fig 
there was a Blastophaga ; but I doubt the correctness of the state- 
ment, because we were not looking for any insect in the fig, 
and you don't generally find something you are not looking for. 
We were not looking for insects. 

Question : How large were the figs you operated on ? 

Mr. Maslin About 1 inches long and li inches thick. 

Question : How were the openings of the figs at that time ? 

Mr. Maslin To the eye they were not open. Closed as tight 
as tight could be. 

Question : In your opinion, was it possible for an insect to 
get in ? 

Mr. Maslin That I could not say ; but I was particular, 
because I am interested in that question. I particularly looked 
to see if I could find a fig where the insect wa's in ; but I declare 
I never saw a fig where it seemed possible for an insect to enter; 
and when I took a bottle of these Blastophaga to my ranch, and 
went over the ten acres, I found only two figs with a hole big 
enough to put an insect in, and I put the insects into these, but 
the figs have fallen off. 

Question : Was the pollen used taken from California-grown 
figs or from the imported ? 
* Mr. Maslin From Capri figs grown by Mr. Shinn. 

Mr. Maslin [Continuing.] I have ten acres of Smyrna seed- 
lings. I sowed the seed in 1885 and 1886. The first crop this 
year the fruit on the limbs was very thick, as on plum and 
prune. The figs this year of that crop on the trees that were 
grown from seed are big, but had no saccharine matter in them 
and dried right up. About two weeks ago I found two dozen 
little figs on currant wood, being so-called second crop. They 
were of a lovely cream, ivory color. The meat was amber color 

and very sweet, but not filling the receptacle. It only showed 
that there was some saccharine principle being developed. 


The ground for argument by those who believe in caprifica- 
tion has been that no fertile seeds had been found in any Cali- 
fornia-grown fig. Also, that all figs, and especially the Smyrna, 
only contain female flowers ; and the fact of fruit of trees 
imported from Smyrna not coming to perfection gave them 
stronger grounds for such belief, that is, the pollen of the male 
or Capri fig had to come in contact with the flowers of the female 
fig to produce fruit. Also that the reason of not having found 
kernels in the seeds of California-grown figs was attributed to 
the lack of the pollen fertilization. 

California-grown figs with fertile seeds. 

(1) Specimen showing mature fruits. 

(2) Specimen showing how the fruits lay in the receptacle; the male flowers are towards 
the blossom end. 

On October 20, 1891, while visiting an orchard at Los Gatos, 
I came across a tree which attracted my attention by reason of 
it being of peculiar foilage ; and upon cutting the fruit I found 
that it possessed both pistillate (the female organ of a phamo- 
gam, consisting of the ovary with its stylus and stigma) and 
staminate (the pollen-bearing organ of the flower, consisting of 


an anther usually supported upon a stalk or filament) flowe, , 
which were so grouped that the pollen from one was freely con- 
; ey ed to the other* Thus fertilized the female blossom, .had 
developed into hundreds of perfect seeds with -we! 

k Tht'is the first time that fruit of this character has been 
found in this State, that is, containing both pistillate and stam- 
nate flowers, and the seeds perfect kernels. One of the spec, 
m ens cut in the presence of E. W. Mashn, Secretary **** 
of Trade and G. F. Weeks, Agricultural Editor of 
ChroMe was full of pollen ; in fact, the pollen was so abun- 
S* gave the center of the fig a yellow appearance. 
Unfortunately the figs were not fully matured so there was no 
Opportunity to test their quality. On cutting them open they 
were of a decidedly purple hue near the j*^-*^ 
bright red and to deep red in riper specnnens. ardly any ed 
coloration was visible in greener specimens th e entire fl e s h 
A c , nnrnle The fig is of elongated shape, ratliei 
3 LdTeseTbt the elongated fig grown by Mr Shinn 
both in shape and color of flesh. It has a leaf resembling the 

prepared, Mr. Maslin brought to my office 
(November 9), several seedling Smyrna figs grown by Inmn 
Pl,cer county The specimens were small, of a bright 
Irandle fruits in the receptacle well developed and npe. 
Upon examination they were found to contain numerous male 
flow rs and considerate pollen. We have here two cone usrve 
facls showing that the insect is not altogether essential for t 

'IS t ^^^ people, step by step, have 
nrav 1 dnLyof the most difficult problems; so let us hope 
Zt dom and ingenuity wSl in the near future solve this 
interesting question. 

serious thin,, and the n.ost .UffieuH natter in thewo,-!,. to .taenuine." 



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